Most men and women, at some point, have been told to look, act or think differently. The image above highlights a female perspective but there's a male version too - probably all the endings being "a man" which is equally unhelpful.
I'm confident I didn't receive any of these messages from my parents but I know I felt them both at school and work at various points.
I'm not talking about feedback. Feedback can be helpful when done well. It's useful to know how you're perceived, to understand the impact of your words or actions or to open your mind to another way of thinking.
I'm talking about that point when the feedback/guidance/helpful suggestions start to shake your trust in your own decision-making. When the voices, opinions and influences of others make you second-guess your own knowledge and intuition. Unchecked, this can result, in choices and decisions according to someone else's values, expectations and goals rather than your own.
If you've ever been described as the "good girl" or the "smart one" or the "funny one" or the "sensible one", you probably recognise this all too well. And it's not necessarily a problem. It can be little more than a slight annoyance most of the time. In my experience, it becomes more significant when you have a strong desire to change something in your life but the options seem way out of reach.
"I can't..." "I should......" "I need to....." are some red-flags to look out for. These words, either spoken or thought, are signs that you are not connecting to your own knowledge. intelligence and intuition.
And if you're not listening to yourself, who are you listening to and how are they serving you?
To be clear, I'm not suggesting we don't pay any attention to what others want for us. Speaking to others and seeking opinions from people you love and trust can be hugely helpful when you're making a change or a decision. But that's the point - speak to them, don't presume you know what they think or what they'll say. People who care about you will listen to you and offer their perspective from a position of love and respect. And whatever they say, remember ultimately it's your decision.
So if you want to make a change in your life, tap in to your knowledge, your expectations and your values. Share your thoughts with others. Ask for opinions and advice. Listen. Be conscious about the external influences that are present and how they interact with your own sense of what you want in your life. And then draw on all your courage make your decision.
Stephanie works with intelligent individuals and teams on leadership, personal impact, choice and change. Find out more at www.stephaniesmithcoaching.co.uk